Dead Poet’s Society: How to seize the day like a man


I was catching up with Mike Black the other day and we got talking about Dead Poet’s Society as he’d just watched it again.

“Dead Poet’s Society – the Iron Qualities are strong in that movie.” he told me

And you know what? He’s absolutely right. It’s sums up perfectly the battle we must fight to become better men and the obstacles we face in this journey.

Seize the day like a man

Oh Captain, my Captain

Robin Williams’ character John Keating IS the Iron Qualities. Keating is an English teacher at a fancy all-boys boarding school who finds out his class has been learning to rate the merits of poetry based on a points system.

Unhappy with this approach, he stirs things up with unorthodox teaching methods that the big-wigs at the school don’t approve of; teaching methods that encourage the boys in his class to realise their potential and discovering their true purpose in life – telling them to “make your lives extraordinary.”

Maybe you were lucky enough to have a Mr Keating in your life – but I’m guessing most of us didn’t. He’s the mentor we all wish we had at that age.

 

Don’t be a lemming

When he looks at the boys in his class he doesn’t see a bunch of drones to be prepped to serve their purpose in the Big Machine as doctors, lawyers and businessmen. He sees their potential, their confusion, and the fact that they are slipping slowly into the abyss of conformity, never to realise their dreams.

He encourages them to express themselves without inhibition rather than live the life of a lemming (I think he even uses that word at some point in the movie). This is best illustrated through Ethan Hawke’s character who starts the movie as a shy, spineless follower who fails to step up to several of Keating’s challenges before literally taking a stand for the man at the movie’s climax.

 

Always move forward

 

Man vs Machine

And so it is with a life of the Iron Qualities – a life where you resolve to be the best you can be and fulfil your potential in a world that is trying to make you fit another purpose. It’s not easy and it’s not comfortable. You will have setbacks and sometimes you will fall.

The setbacks don’t matter – it’s how you respond, how you learn from them and how you move forward.

You might find yourself in difficult circumstances where your principles and actions are at odds with an element of the Big Machine – just like the boys in Dead Poet’s Society. They each respond to those challenges in different ways – some right…some wrong. It had tragic consequences for some but in the end, the boys stuck to the principles Keating had instilled in them and took a stand against the powers that be.

 

Carpe Diem

The ‘Carpe Diem’ scene is one of the movie’s most well-known moments. Keating shows the boys some old photos of former pupils who are now dead and gets one of the student to read a poem by Robert Herrick:

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying

The point he makes to the class is that when you’re young, you feel invincible and that you can do anything you want. But we are only on this earth for a short amount of time. One day you look in the mirror and see a young boy with a few pimples here and there. Tomorrow you look at that same mirror and see an old man.

Keating tells the boys to ‘seize the day’ – and this is advice we should all follow. Do what you can NOW to become your best. Don’t wait until tomorrow. Don’t wait for conditions to be just right. Don’t wait for permission. Start the journey towards the Iron Qualities TODAY. Carpe Diem

When the time comes for that old man to look back at you in that mirror, make sure you can tell him that you did absolutely everything you could to be the best you could be so that the only reply he can give you is “I know. It’s been a great life.”

 

Become the best you can be today

 

Steps in the right direction

Don’t be put off by setbacks. Don’t be discouraged by failures. Don’t be disappointed in a lack of visible gain. Any step you take in the right direction, no matter how small, is still a step in the right direction.

And how do you know what the right direction is? Reading any article written by Bo Ideal is a good start. Another positive move would be finding a John Keating of your own. The importance of mentors can’t be underestimated and identifying someone who has been there and done that and is willing to share their advice and experience is a powerful move.

And if you have a gift to share with the world, share it. Pass on the skills and  knowledge that you have learned that make you a better man. Share the Iron Qualities.

Either be a John Keating – or find one.

 

“That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse”
Walt Whitman

 

5 causes of approach anxiety and what you can do about it

 

Approach Anxiety vs skydiving

Approach anxiety is the fear of approaching and talking to women. It’s a common problem amongst men and something many suffer with.

In fact, Bo was talking to Vegas Pete recently and we got onto the topic of honeys – specifically, approaching a woman and talking to her.

Vegas Pete revealed that he would rather go skydiving than approach a woman with model looks in a bar. Now let’s think about that for a second. Let’s let it sink in…he would rather jump out of a moving plane at 10,000 ft than strike up a conversation with another human being.

Seems a little strange, right?

But I can understand where he’s coming from. This is approach anxiety. And fortunately, it’s something that can be fixed. Another fear….another development opportunity.

But let’s go back to what Vegas Pete said…

He would rather jump out of a plane at 10,000 ft than strike up a conversation with another human being

 

Approach Anxiety - The Iron Qualities

 

Why do men get this fear? There’s a number of reasons

1 – Being too nice: ‘Nice’ here means that you don’t want to bother a woman or intrude on her personal space. You don’t want to show sexual interest or attraction to her because it’s ‘wrong’ or too forward. And you see yourself as this ‘nice’ guy and compare yourself negatively to men you see in movies or read about in books who DO get women. They are nothing like you and therefore you think you will fail before you begin

2- The Halo Effect: You see a smoking hot honey. I mean, she is out of this world. Wow. She must have many other amazing qualities too – she’s probably intelligent, kind, funny, warm and witty. She’s perfect. You’ve only got one shot at this. If you approach her without being prepared, you’re going to screw it up and lose your only chance with the woman of your dreams. So why even bother?

3 – She is higher value than you: Following on from the previous point, because this woman is essentially perfect, she is better than you. I mean let’s face it – you are not attractive, not interesting, not confident and you have so many problems in your life. This woman is used to strong, successful and confident guys who have their shit together and this is not you

4 – What to say what to say….. : You’ve decided to take the plunge. You’re going to go up to this woman and talk to her. Oh wait….talk?! What are you going to say??? You need to have a repertoire of smooth lines ready to go in order to amaze this women with your wit and banter. Right now, you can’t think of one damn word to say to her. Maybe ‘hello’ …. but then what? You’ll be standing there like a dickhead, freeze and end up looking like a socially maladjusted freak. She’ll probably pepper spray you in the face just to get rid of you

5 – Pride: You’re approaching an attractive woman in a public place and potentially within earshot of numerous people. No doubt other guys in the place have been thinking the same and if you approach, all eyes are on you. Women don’t want to be annoyed. What if she rejects you and makes a big scene. She might slap you in the face or throw her drink all over you if you try to say hi. And in front of everyone. Horrible

 

These are the kind of stories many of us tell ourselves in our heads and some of the reasons for social paralysis when it comes to wooing the honeys

We have these delimiting beliefs that we are not worthy; women don’t want to be bothered; showing sexual attraction is wrong and so on. So what happens? We end up sitting on the sidelines and being passive observers. That old sickness spectatoritis popping up again.

And this can produce a vicious cycle of debilitating behaviour. If you want to approach a woman and don’t, you are denying your instinct. You have failed to act when you felt you should. That’s why it feels shit. You have not acted authentically and so the next time this happens, you remember the previous failure, feel even more inferior and fail to act again. And so the cycle continues.

 

The fear of getting punched is worse than the punch itself

Ok, enough of that crap. We’re telling ourselves all these negative stories in our heads BEFORE we’ve even said a word to her. It’s like my good friend  Mike Black always says:

“The fear of getting punched is worse than the punch itself. Getting punched isn’t actually that bad.”

 

And so it is with approaching women. And the good news is now that you’re versed in the principles of The Iron Qualities, you know that talking to a honey ain’t no thing.

 

Problem vs opportunity

Let’s have a look at those reasons for approach anxiety again:

1 – Being too nice: No. Nice is not where you want to be. Nice is passive. Nice is limiting. Nice is timid. Don’t be nice. If you want something, go get it. Women want men who know what they want and know how to get it. Approaching a woman in a non-creepy and confident way is infinitely more attractive to her than staring at her longingly from a distance and cry-wanking about how sexually frustrated you are when you get home all alone.

2- The Halo Effect: Ok. Here’s a truth – there is no woman on this earth who is perfect. Chances are, this woman has none of the traits you applied to her in your mind. The more you talk to women the more you realise that they are flawed humans just like you and I. But of course there’s only one way to find out….

3 – She is higher value than you: You are a man of Iron Qualities now. You are dedicated to becoming the best you can be. That negative mindset is gone – it’s in the past. You are a positive, confident and resourceful man who has his own shit going on. An attractive honey would be a welcome addition in this fantastic life you’ve got going on, but she needs to prove to you that she is worth it.

4 – What to say what to say….. : Over-thinking things can get you in all sorts of trouble. You don’t need any special chatup lines – just go up to her and say hi and have a normal conversation. Think back – how many times have you had a random conversation with a stranger. Was it weird? Did you freeze up? No. And just by walking up and saying hi, you’re already the exception rather than the rule – 90% of the guys in the place are too afraid to even get this far

5 – Pride: Being rejected in these situations is not something you should be concerned about. This woman doesn’t know you and there are countless reasons why she is not interested – most of them outside your sphere of influence. Most people are pretty well socially adjusted so don’t fear being called out and shot down in a blaze of glory. IF IF IF you do get rejected, it will probably be politely and with a smile. If it’s not and you get a slap or a pint over the head (assuming you’ve been respectful and non-creepy), this isn’t the kind of person you want to get to know anyway.

 

Steps to victory

Now I know that all the theory and logic in the word doesn’t mean a thing when the slimy tentacles of a phobia are wrapped tightly around your throat. So now that we’ve debunked all those nasty and horrible fears, here’s some practical and easy steps you can take today to start the journey towards silver-tongued goodness

1 – Become the best version of yourself: This is always priority #1. It trumps everything. Honeys should never be the primary focus of your life. Taking the right steps to becoming a better man will make you positive, cool, fun and driven. Yes, that’s right – HIGH VALUE.

2 – Talk to more people in everyday situations: Make it a goal to enhance any functional conversation you have during a typical day by asking a few more questions.

  • Buying lunch at the canteen? Ask the cooks which meal is the best option today
  • Getting a new pair of shoes? Get an opinion on whether black or brown looks better on you
  • Walk past that same person everyday at work but never say a word? Today is the day you ask them how they’re doing

Easiest thing in the world. One extra question and you’re having a proper conversation. Rather than focussing on meeting and talking to attractive women, focus on being a more sociable person in all aspects of your day-to-day life. Doing this makes you a more positive and sociable person and will ultimately help you talk to women you find attractive.

3 – Don’t over think. Just act: You have no idea what she’s going to say when you approach. Stop imagining all the horrible things that could go wrong and pull the trigger. And when you do pull the trigger and you can’t think of anything to say, or you get a lukewarm response, try this one:

You: Hi

Honey: Hi

You: How’s your evening going?

Honey: It’s going ok…

You: Ok cool. I just thought I’d come over and say hi. What’s your name?

Honey: Honey

You: Alright Honey. I’m Bo. You have a good night and if we bump into each other again later, we’re doing shots

And there you go. Honey wasn’t interested but:

a) you had a conversation with her

b) You’ve gained experience approaching an woman

c) You now have a legitimate reason to re-engage later in the evening for those shots

Things won’t happen if you wait for them – you have to make them happen. The more you put yourself out there, the more of a roller-coaster it will be. But remember: you’re just talking to another person. That’s all it is.

 

Talking the Iron Qualities

Taking all this into consideration, let’s do a good old fashioned compare and contrast. Picture the scene – you are in a coffee shop buying a…wait for it…coffee. The barista is an attractive lady:

Barista: Hi there, how can I help you?

You: Can I have a medium vanilla spiced soya latte please

Barista: Sure. One moment please

(one moment later)

Barista: Here you go. That’s £2.50 please

(you had over the money)

You: There you go. Have a nice day

Barista: Thanks, you too

 

Ok. Not bad. You spoke to an attractive lady, got your coffee and survived without any permanent damage. If we were ticking off a checklist, that’s a fairly successful operation.

But life isn’t about checklists. Let’s inject some Iron Qualities into the same scene and see what happens:

Barista: Hi there, how can I help you?

(looking at her name badge)

You: Hi Honey. Can I have a black coffee. No milk. No Sugar.

Barista: Sure. One moment please

You: How are you doing today?

Barista: I’m doing good thanks. How about you.

You: Yeah pretty good. I just read a really interesting article on my favourite blog –  theironqualities.com

Barista: Oh really? I haven’t heard of it. What’s it about?

You: It’s a self-improvement blog for men. It has lots of useful tips

Barista: Sounds interesting! What kind of tips?

You: Well today my goal was to flirt with a pretty lady. I guess I can tick that box now….

Barista: Tee hee!! Oh you!

(coffee arrives)

Barista: Here you go. That’s £2.50 please

(you had over the money)

You: There you go. You have a great day

Barista: Thanks, you too Mr Iron Qualities. Maybe see you again sometime

You: No doubt

 

I think that went ok, don’t you?

 

“Language was invented for one endeavour….to woo women”
Robin Williams – Dead Poet’s Society

 

Kurt Hahn: A Man of Iron Qualities

Men with the Iron Qualities are a little bit like a woman with both outstanding beauty and intelligence – they are out there and they exist, but coming across one is a rare and unexpected moment. It’s a little scary but also intriguing.

With that in mind, I want to highlight men – real or fictional – who have demonstrated some of the principles that define the Iron Qualities. Think of it like a slightly less sexy Playboy Playmate of the Month.

Kurt Hahn - The Iron Qualities

Kurt Hahn – An unexpected start

I had several men in mind to kick this off with – but there are lots of little coincidences in the world. I was thinking about this the other day, I read an excellent article about a man who ticked a lot of the Iron Qualities boxes – Kurt Hahn.

Hahn was born to Jewish parents in Germany in 1886 and suffered severe sunstroke as an 18 year old which resulted in the removal of the occipital bone at the back of his skull and required him to wear a wide-brimmed hat when outdoors for the rest of his life.

He worked several jobs before founding the Schule Schloss in Salem in 1920, a private boarding school where he also served as headmaster.

He became a fierce critic of the Nazi regime during Hitler’s rise to power – this was heightened by an incident where a young communist was killed by Nazi troops in front of his mother. Hahn spoke out against the murder, and then against Hitler and his regime itself.

This led to him spending several days in prison before an appeal by the British Prime Minister saw him released. He then moved to Scotland where he converted to Christianity and founded Gordonstoun – a boarding school in Scotland that shared similar principles to the school in Salem. Alumni include Prince Philip and Prince Charles.

He went on to found several other boarding schools around the world before returning to Germany, where he died in 1974.

 

Forming schools based on a philosophy

Ok, so what? A German school teacher who had an overdose of sunbathing as a child. Pretty bland. Where are the Iron Qualities??

Well much like our Autobot brothers from Cybertron, there is more than meets the eye here.

“There is more in you than you think” is an inscription found on Hahn’s family home – it became the motto of his life’s philosophy and also served as the motto for one of the educational institutions he went on to form. It sums the man up pretty well.

Hahn was all about “experiential learning” – putting kids in situations that were mentally and physically challenging. He believed children were inherently decent and had a strong moral sense but that these traits became corrupted by society as they got older.

His educational principles were designed to provide opportunities for personal leadership and for students to see the results of their own actions – the goal being to halt this corruption. And the principles were refined and crystalised into what became known as the ‘Seven Laws of Salem’ around 1930:

  1. Give the children opportunities for self-discovery
  2. Make the children meet with triumph and defeat
  3. Give the children the opportunity of self-effacement in the common cause
  4. Provide periods of silence
  5. Train the imagination
  6. Make games important but not predominant
  7. Free the sons of the wealthy and powerful from the enervating sense of privilege

I love it. I mean, an educational philosophy with these principles at its core is much better and more practical than the learning by numbers approach we enjoy today to enable schools to meet government exam pass targets.

Hahn expanded on this and offered some more explanation on his educational principles:

“I regard it as the foremost task of education to insure the survival of these qualities: an enterprising curiosity, an undefeatable spirit, tenacity in pursuit, readiness for sensible self denial, and above all, compassion.”

Everything about this stinks of the Iron Qualities. These qualities should be central to a boy’s journey to becoming a man and with a huge chunk of a boy’s life spent educational institutions, weaving these principles into that routine is exactly what is needed.

 

Six Declines, four antidotes

Hahn also created a list of points that he felt summed up exactly how society fails and corrupts the young – the ‘Six Declines of Modern Youth’.

Decline of Fitness due to modern methods of locomotion (moving about)

Decline of Initiative and Enterprise due to the widespread disease of spectatoritis (a passive spectator rather than an active participant)

Decline of Memory and Imagination due to the confused restlessness of modern life

Decline of Skill and Care due to the weakened tradition of craftsmanship

Decline of Self-discipline  due to the ever-present availability of stimulants and tranquilizers

Decline of Compassion due to the unseemly haste with which modern life is conducted

 

Bingo. This guy absolutely nailed it. This is why men of the Iron Qualities are so few and far between. Too many of us think:

  • It’s easier to lie on the sofa all weekend for a big sporting marathon of football, boxing, rugby and tennis rather than going to the gym and pumping some iron
  • It’s easier to watch and read about other people trying and failing something challenging (and then passing judgment on them) rather than trying ourselves
  • It’s easy to fall into the routine of ‘eat, sleep, work, repeat’ rather than stopping to smell the roses now and then
  • It’s easier to buy disposable items and trash them rather than getting quality expensive pieces that last a lifetime
  • It’s easier to get wired on caffeine or something stronger to get you through the work week and then get wasted on a bottle of Buckfast at the weekend to forget how much you hate your job rather than having the discipline to take control of your life and take it where YOU want it to go
  • It’s easier to keep running to catch that train to get you to work rather than stopping to help that little old man who just tripped and fell over

 

Iron Qualities – old school style

It’s strange and sad that something written about boys almost 100 years ago still resonates today – and not just with boys but with men too. Hahn was industrious however and didn’t just stop with identifying these declines – he also proposed four remedies:

Fitness Training (e.g., to compete with one’s self in physical fitness; in so doing, train the discipline and determination of the mind through the body)

Expeditions (e.g., via sea or land, to engage in long, challenging endurance tasks)

Projects (e.g., involving crafts and manual skills)

Rescue Service (e.g., surf lifesaving, fire fighting, first aid)

These ‘remedies’ were built into the curriculum at Hahn’s schools and went on to form the basis of the Duke of Edinburgh Award –  designed to recognise young people’s achievements in a series of self-improvement exercises.

Old Bo here participated in the scheme when he was in high school. That particular adventure was short lived however – one of my teachers took a dislike to my expedition group and made our time in the scheme hell. On top of this, I was the only one of us who could even remotely read a map and knew what a compass a) was and b) looked like. All this meant that my Duke of Edinburgh adventure was like a fart in the wind – lingering briefly in my life before disappearing forever and becoming no more than a distant memory.

 

Start the day in the right way

At Gordonstoun, the boys rose at 06:30am for a cold shower and a run, the timetable for the day much like that in the German schools Hahn had earlier formed. At 21:15 there was a quarter of an hour of silence to enable the pupil to “glean the harvest from his manifold experiences” before lights out.

This is a tough way to start the day – but a fantastic way. There is plenty of material online and elsewhere about the many benefits of cold showers and a little 5km run in the morning does wonders. This is a routine I started trying to implement a several months ago. Waking up 45 minutes earlier than normal; do a little stretching; get some air in your lungs by banging out a 20-25 min run; then hop into a quick 2-3 minute cold shower to get the blood flowing.

It might sound crazy, but you feel like king of the world after this routine. Granted, it’s not always easy to motivate yourself to get up at 6am if it’s sub-zero temperatures pissing rain and darker than a black steer’s tookus. But creating a habit of positive action and doing it more often than not is a battle everyone can win.

And while you are up and about working to improve yourself and become the best you can be, 90% of the population are still in bed snoring.

 

Hahn was the man

While Hahn may not have physically resembled what we typically think an Alpha Male looks like, he dedicated his life to a philosophy that all men should pay serious attention to. The emphasis on practical physical activities rather than over-reliance on theoretical learning provided a fantastic foundation for children at his schools to go on and live a life of Iron Qualities.

The principles that he engrained in his schools showed that Hahn understood how men should live their lives and realise their potential – and he created and refined a curriculum and learning methods to facilitate this.

Ask yourself the question: Would you rather finish school with the skills to:

  • Prepare you for an exciting career in banking or
  • Become a self-reliant and driven man (who also has some quality numeracy skills as and when required)?

 

Self-reliance, compassion, discipline, drive/determination – these are the qualities Hahn wanted us to cultivate and these qualities are central to a life well-lived for men. For the majority of us, our schooldays are over, but it’s never too late to learn.

I’m glad I discovered Kurt Hahn and his philosophy on education. As I was reading about his life, a thought kept going through my head:

“It’s like this guy had an internal magnet that pointed him in the direction of the Iron Qualities”

And it’s for that reason he absolutely deserves his place as a Mon of the Month.

Remember the Hahn family motto – “There is more in you than you think”

This is true for all of us. Don’t settle for an easy auto-pilot life of mediocrity – take control and make yourself the best person your can be. You might surprise yourself.

Now…I’m off to dust off the De Lorean, travel back in time and give that Duke of Edinburgh Award another shot.

1.21 gigawatts!!

 

Rugby vs Football – what men can learn from these sports

A few weeks ago saw the conclusion of rugby’s 2016 6 Nations Championship and once again we were treated to five rounds of intense and physical confrontations over 6 weeks.

It’s one of the few times in the year when football has to take a back seat to another sport – at least this is the case in the UK. During the final weekend, I was in a bar watching the Ireland vs Scotland game with my old friend Arthur Guinness.

The bar has several screens and all of them were showing the rugby. All bar one – a smaller screen in a corner that was showing the Swansea vs Aston Villa game.

And watching these two sports side by side with the Guinness oiling the cogs in my head got me thinking. It wasn’t a question of which sport was better, but where the Iron Qualities were.

Growing up, football was a central part of my childhood. It was Magnetic North and I was a compass. I never had a choice, it would always attract me.

Football vs rugby

Little Bo used to play jumpers for goalposts late into the evening. In the summer when there was still some natural light well past 10pm, we would play first to 50 goals and go home covered in grass stains and mud.

Rugby was something that was always in my peripheral vision, never quite getting to the centre stage. A little like a recurring extra in a soap opera with a non-speaking part.

My school tried to force it on us for a period and I even made the school team. But we were beyond shit; we got smashed every time we played, I didn’t understand the rules and the whole experience was lost on me.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown to appreciate the merits of rugby more and more. And watching these two sports side I got thinking about the old arguments rugby folk tend to bring up when comparing their chosen sport to football

Feigning injury

Footballers falling over at the slightest nudge; writhing dramatically in apparent agony when someone goes in hard on them with a good, solid tackle; or worse – going down when nobody touches them. There is a growing sickness in football.

Laurent Blanc – a former France international – knows all too well about this sickness. He earned a suspension and missed the 1998 World Cup final after Croatia’s Slavan Bilic appeared to overreact when Blanc made contact with him

Four years later at the 2002 World Cup, Turkey’s Hakan Ünsal was sent off for kicking the ball at Rivaldo, only to see the Brazilian go down like he’d taken a shot from Rocky Balboa.

It’s cheating – pure and simple. An attempt to con the referee into thinking you have been seriously fouled.

On the flip side of this coin in the rugby world, there is the famous story of former New Zealand captain Buck Shelford. He made his debut for the All Blacks in a test series against France. In his second game, the French decided to give him a hearty bienvenue to international rugby by:

  • Knocking him out with a flying headbutt
  • Performing some emergency dental work with a swift boot to the face, removing three teeth
  • Doing the Moonwalk on his groin area while he was grounded, ripping his ballsack which then had to be stitched up

No – I haven’t been drinking that Peruvian hallucination tea, this is all true. All these things happened to one man in one game, although I’m not sure about the Moonwalk part – it might have been MC Hammer dance.

Stop….Hammer time.

Records show that Shelford continued the game. But don’t ask the man himself – his memory of the event is a little hazy.

In the history of rugby, this isn’t an isolated incident. The game doesn’t generally stop for injuries and it’s common to see physios on the field of play patching guys up. So if you go down injured, you’re hurting your team’s chances too.

It’s a much more physical game than football and this spirit of putting your body on the line and pushing through the pain barrier is entrenched in players’ psyches.

 

Fighting and confrontations

I remember seeing clips of old football games from the 70s where players would go in hard on each other, square up and have the occasional boxing match. These things happen in the heat of the moment. Sometimes we lose our composure.

Today, we get players touching heads, one player moves his head towards the other player’s who then goes down in a heap.

The physicality from bygone days has been lost and we are now left with deception, exaggerated reactions to physical contact and some truly embarrassing attempts at self-defence.

The technical term for it in the game is ‘handbags’ and it’s literally ridiculous. Literally.

Rugby players on the other hand generally put up with a high level of physicality as part of the game but when things kick off, they really do KICK OFF. There is no overreactions or ‘handbags’, just good old fashioned fist-on-skull action.

The individual vs the team

Time and time again I’ve seen football players get substituted in a game and before they’ve even left the pitch, they are throwing a hissy fit. Shaking their head in disbelief and mumbling profanities to themselves, they trudge back to the bench, sit down and start throwing stuff around and looking grumpy.

I’ve seen behaviour like this before…from children at nursery school when they had a boo-boo or one of the other kids snatched their He-Man toy off them.

In rugby, players go off…and that’s it. In fact, because of the much higher number of subs allowed in the game, you barely notice players going off or coming on and players tend not to take it as a personal slight.

 

Abusing the officials

Picture the scene…Barcelona vs Real Madrid. Luis Suarez charges through on goal, gets into the penalty area, gets chopped down.

The ref blows his whistle, awards a penalty and gets surrounded by a bunch of hot and angry Madrid players getting right in his face telling him what a moron he is.

We say and do things in the heat of the moment that we later regret. But this kind of institutionalised abuse towards authority figures is bullying. Getting up close and personal and putting the ref under pressure to make decisions that are favourable towards your team.

And the ref – well he’s just a man, watching a game going at 100 miles per hour and having to make a decision in a split second.

Rugby has video replays to help officials with key decisions. The football powers that be have dragged their heels on video technology that would greatly help refs for years; and they will continue to do so for years to come.

In rugby – and indeed most other major sports, video technology promotes a level of trust and respect between players and officials. It’s accepted that the right decisions will be made and ref abuse is kept to a minimum.

Saying that, before video replays were introduced to rugby, any player who gave shit to a referee was either sent to the sin bin or sent off. No arguments. No hesitation. That level of ref respect is engrained in the sport and hasn’t been eroded…yet. It’s also not uncommon to hear “yes sir” when players speak to the ref. Respect, not bullying

 

Rugby & football on the Iron Qualities scale

Those are just a few of the things I was thinking about that day. And the question that kept coming back to my mind wasn’t “which sport is ‘better’?” – no, it was “where are the Iron Qualities in all this?”

And if we put the sports of rugby and football on the Iron Qualities scale, it looks like it would tip overwhelmingly in favour of the egg-chasers. If you took any of the behaviour so often seen on a football pitch these days and transferred it to real life, you would be in trouble.

 

  • Someone slaps you in the face and you go down claiming whiplash and suing. Will you be able to look at yourself in the mirror at night knowing you had acted authentically?
  • You’re in a crowded bar and making your way back from the toilets, you bump into someone who accuses you of spilling their beer. He gets right in your face and diplomacy isn’t going to work. If you fight like a footballer, guess what….you’re getting knocked out
  • You get passed over for a promotion or replaced on a piece of work. You can either a) cry about it; b) accept it; c) figure out WHY it happened to take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Which option demonstrates the Iron Qualities??????

But here’s the thing – I have grown up surrounded by football. It is sown into the fabric of our society. It’s the simplest thing: I kicked a £2 plastic ball against a wall when I was 9 years old and fell in love. Unconditionally. A ball and a wall – that’s all it takes.

 

Football at its best is art

The ability of teams to string quick accurate cutting passes together is a manifestation of sporting harmony – the combination of players on the same wavelength producing a pleasing effect.

Football and rugby both produce this effect but football tends to be more free-flowing.

Rugby is often dominated by team strategy and tactics. The coaching staff create blueprints for how they want their team to play and this is then drilled and practiced ad nauseum. Tackling in the sport brings momentum to a halt and allows both teams to get set for the next phase, which they will have drilled over and over again in training.

It is very much a team sport – with the strength of the pack being much more important than any one individual.

But football, more so than rugby, provides a canvas for the solo artist. One player can make – or break – a team. Or even the entire club.

One player has the potential at any time to completely turn a game on its head with a moment of genius or a massive cock-up.

One player playing at his peak and profoundly effecting a game is like an artist possessed and in the zone slashing his paintbrush across the canvas as he creates a masterpiece.

Growing up, I remember them all: Ronaldo, Scholes, Zidane, Laudrup, Pirlo, Bergkamp

I went to Milan once – a cathedral of football where you can still occasionally hear echoes of past greats like Meazza, Mazzola, Ronaldo, Maldini, Gullit and Van Basten.

Amongst its cobbled paths and alleyways it holds two marvels of human creation – The Duomo Cathedral and Da Vinci’s ‘Last Supper’.

If rugby is the team of men who built the Duomo, then football is The Last Supper.

The Duomo is a triumph of architectural design and construction teamwork – it has been rebuilt, reconstructed and enhanced many times over the years. Much like a rugby team on offence, progress is halted, attack is redirected in phases and as a team, there is eventual success.

The Last Supper is a fragile, multi-layered, fading symbol of one man transcending the limits of human imagination. On first appearance, it might appear underwhelming. The fact that is was painted on a thin wall and exposed to the elements of nature, it has deteriorated badly and very little of the original is left.

But the more you look, the more you see. This is one of the most beautiful creations in human history and shows what one man can do given the right motivation and conditions.

 

So…the Iron Qualities??

As a man, you keep trying to move forward and progress like a juggernaut. You will get tackled and taken down. Often, you will have to take a few steps back to make long-term gains. But when you get tackled, when you suffer an affront or when you get called out for doing something wrong, you take it – authentically and like a man. Move on. And keep moving forward.

And just like those footballing geniuses who shone for their teams, you nurture your ability to do something special, something different. You can be the difference-maker because you have the Iron Qualities.

And while you have the ability to shine yourself, you take responsibility for surrounding yourself with other men of the Iron Qualities and working together with them as a team to drive forward in that search for self-improvement and success as a man.

Neither football nor rugby are better than the other. They are both sports with their own individual merits. The secret in all this is to take the best qualities of both sports and apply them to your everyday life. Then you’re in Iron Qualities country.